In another of my “guilty pleasure” book series, I’m now looking at the first of a series called “Opposites Attract” and this is Breakaway: A Gay Sports Romance by Romeo Alexander.
Jayden is a college athlete. He’s at a University in Ontario and his big sport is ice hockey. He’s well-liked by his teammates and fellow students. He’s sort of the star of the team. He’s also gay, out of the closet and no one seems to mind (Well this IS Canada!). He has had a difficult life growing up. His father got him excited about ice hockey, but one tragic night he lost his father in a terrible car accident. The only thing that kept him sane was ice hockey, and now he is on the Varsity team. He only has one slight problem and that is his grades aren’t very good, especially in Humanities. His coach, who has sort of served as a surrogate father to Jayden, tells him that he needs to get his grades up, especially with Humanities. Jayden has to get himself a tutor. It is there that he meets Sam, and he’s your cliché geek. Jayden doesn’t know much about Sam except that he finds him attractive. Sam, on the other hand, is no-nonsense. He may be a geek, but he’ll tell Jayden what he needs to hear, and that only makes Jayden even more interested in this man. It doesn’t take long for Jayden to make a move on Sam, but not everyone at the university is as enlightened, and soon Sam finds himself in the crosshairs of another ice hockey player named Stevie, only this time it is with hatred.
Romeo Alexander is the author who first introduced me to these series of books, especially of the “opposites attract” sub-genre. Now I’ll be honest. This isn’t exactly high literature. That, however, should not be a cause to dismiss this. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love being surprised, and this book surprised me. I picked this book up to read because I do enjoy this sub-genre (which I will address later), and having previously read one of Alexander’s books, I felt pretty safe that this would be entertaining, albeit in a guilty pleasure sort of way. However, this story disturbed me at first. The character of Jayden is unlike any of the other jock/athlete type characters that I have previously read. He came off as a bit forward, especially in his admitted attraction to Sam, leaving me with the impression that this was going to end up being some stupid stunt committed by a jock in an attempt to embarrass one of the school nerds (a very sore point for me). Interestingly enough Sam calls Jayden out on that, who then also very interestingly ends up becoming offended by this. Alexander has now presented two main characters who are somewhat against the stereotype one might expect. Even their first serious romantic encounter is odd and awkward. However, Alexander did a sudden left turn and threw in a complication that almost sucked the air out of my lungs. It was quite shocking and it allowed the story to briefly touch on the issue of hate crimes, which some people might view as a bit preachy. I, however, did not. I appreciated the message probably because of my age. I still remember the days when hateful acts of violence were commonplace. It has gotten better in that there does appear to be a greater sense of acceptance, but the crimes still do exist, and they were very plentiful even as recently as 30 years ago. For that reason, I appreciated the fact that Alexander was willing to include a hate crime in this book. If there is a downside to this it’s that perhaps the emotional impact of the hate crime is somewhat minimized in that this book does end with a “Happily Ever After.” If Alexander wanted to deliver a message that knocked people right between the eyes it might have been better served to have the outcome of this be more tragic. Then again, there is so much tragedy that does exist today, including in the LGBTQ community, that it also makes sense to give us that happily ever after as a way of distracting us from the terrible news we are inundated with on an almost daily basis. In any case, I appreciate very much that the issues of anti-gay bias and hate crimes were addressed.
This now leads me to this particular sub-genre of “opposites attract.” I was a nerd. Heck, I still am! I’m one half of the Two Gay Geeks, so I wear that term proudly. But going to school was a different matter. Except for only a handful of friends, I was very isolated and alone in a school where jocks and the athletic program meant everything. I also admit that there was one jock that I was head over heels about. Every time I saw him my heart would race to the point of going out of control, but he never knew I existed. For years I wondered how I might feel if this jock had noticed me, and possibly even discretely expressed an interest in me. Now comes along this book and in a somewhat unique way actually tells that story, and even though the entire book is told through Jayden’s POV, the character of Sam was still written so strongly that I could almost put myself in his place and experience by proxy what it felt like. It’s almost as if this book was written for me and others like me. That is what makes Breakaway such a strong book, for if it can generate this kind of a response from someone who is 40+ years out of high school then that speaks to the quality of the writing of these characters and the experiences they find themselves in.
How do I know that this is a good book? When I got to the final chapter I found myself saddened that weren’t any more pages telling me about the lives of both Jayden and Sam. If reading the final page of a book can bring about a sense of sadness and longing for more, then you know you’ve just finished reading a good book, even if it is a guilty pleasure.
Breakaway: A Gay Sports Romance can be purchased here.